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Coca-Cola CEO Quincey to take on chairman role in April

The Coca-Cola Company President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey delivers a speech during a presentation in Paris, France, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

(Reuters) – Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) said on Thursday Chief Executive Officer James Quincey would take on the additional role of chairman next April, when incumbent Muhtar Kent retires after four decades with the world’s largest beverages maker.

Kent, 65, held the reins of the company as chief executive and chairman from 2009 until 2017. He continued as chairman after Quincey became the chief executive.

Kent’s departure will be the second-high profile change in the beverage industry following Pepsico Inc (PEP.O) Chief Executive Officer Indira Nooyi’s decision to step down as chief executive of the company in October. She is also expected to relinquish her position as Chairman in early 2019.

“One of the most important jobs of a chairman is to ensure that a strong leadership succession plan is in place,” Kent said in a statement on Thursday.

“I’m delighted that the board has elected James as chairman. He is the right leader to take the Coca-Cola system to the next level and through the next decade.”

Kent has been credited with spearheading Coca-Cola’s move away from sugary sodas towards health and energy drinks. Under his leadership, the soda-maker made investments in energy drinks maker Monster Beverage Corp (MNST.O) in 2014, organic juice maker Suja Life LLC in 2015, among others.

During his tenure as CEO, Kent drove Coke’s sales up by about 39 percent, while its shares rose about 60 percent. Kent also led the consolidation of the company’s bottling system that helped it reduce costs.

The company on Thursday also said the board had elected Maria Lagomasino as lead independent director to succeed Sam Nunn, who would step down from board after 22 years as a director.

Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI component Coca-Cola’s shares were down 1.6 percent in noon trading, largely in-line with a nearly 2 percent decline in the benchmark.

Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Shailesh Kuber

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